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Old 05-12-2013, 11:03 AM
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After reading yet another thread about "birth dates", here's a question for you: We all know that S&W's were not shipped in serial number order and the only dates currently reasonably obtainable are the shipping dates.
My question is: Were they produced (i.e. coming off the assembly line) , for the most part, in serial number order? In other words, could we assume that # 12345 came off the line before, say, 12346? (Or within a a short period of time thereafter.) I know some guns were returned to the line for additional fitting, etc., but would it be reasonable to assume that was the exception rather than the rule.

So, if I had #12346 and knew it shipped in 1892 wouldn't it be reasonable to assume that #12345 preceded that date regardless of when it shipped?
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Old 05-12-2013, 11:38 AM
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From what I understand, frames were serial numbered in large batches. so, yes, that is a logical assumption. Like you said, there are many instances of frames being serial numbered, put back in the vault, then not finished and shipped for months or years. For legal purposes it becomes a 'gun' when the frame gets serialed. Unfortunately the factory doesn't record any date with it until it ships.
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Old 05-12-2013, 02:52 PM
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Dean, You are correct. Guns were made in serial number sequence, by batch. The batches being in multiples of 25 usually. In a few situations, a batch of serial numbers were "set aside" for future uses and guns made in those set aside numbers would be made in a special run at a later period. Yes, 12345 was made before 12346.
The factory did record the serial numbers, by dates, when they were made, mostly for guns made up to the end of about WW2. A partial reason for this is that payment for guns produced was the way workers got paid, so it was necessary to keep track of how many guns were made each day and that was the job of the Floor Foremen to record numbers made each day, by serial number batches. The portion of these records that survive, are not in the factory archives at the CVHM ( except for the Safety Hammerless models which I helped arrange to have donated), but are held by private individuals. Guns made for test purposes or by custom orders, like the .357 Registered Magnums, or special orders in the Service dep't. will not always follow in serial number sequence,as did the floor produced standard production guns. Hope this helps. Ed.

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Old 05-12-2013, 03:52 PM
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Originally Posted by deadin View Post
. . . We all know that S&W's were not shipped in serial number order and the only dates currently reasonably obtainable are the shipping dates.
Good question Dean and excellent answers from our experts, but you mention that S&Ws were not shipped in serial number order . . . except . . .

I have noticed that several antique and some C&R models seem to be almost in perfect serial number/ship date order, while others are a total mess. Sorting the SWCA Database by model then by serial number yields a date listing. What is interesting is that some models are nearly chronological. My thoughts are that these were very popular and that orders were ahead of production, while those models that were less popular, accumulated on the shelves, sometimes for years before all went out the door. Any other thoughts out there?
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Old 05-12-2013, 04:33 PM
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So, are the S&W serials listed in the BATF C&R List that are the cut-off between antiques and C&R from the Floor records, the shipping records or just a WAG?.
My thoughts were if we could determine a serial that shipped prior to 1899, we could make a case that all lesser numbers would also be antiques.
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Old 05-12-2013, 08:35 PM
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The BATF records for the cut off are based on shipping dates, as supplied by the factory, except for the .44DAs that Roy was able to show the BATF that the frames were made before the cut off. The downside is that most sellers and FFL dealers follow the BATF lists and seldom will listen to any other arguments that a gun is an antique. Since the factory has only the shipping records and does not have the production records, circa 1898 cut off, they can't supply the true facts to the BATF. Should any of our members find themselves in Federal Court, charged with an illegal gun transfer due to a shipping vs. manufacturing date, evidence of a higher serial number being shipped before the cut off date, vs. the date of the gun in question, would be an excellent defense. Ed.
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Old 05-12-2013, 10:15 PM
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Thanks Ed,
My work here is done...
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Old 05-12-2013, 10:51 PM
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Ed - help me out here. I have been with the understanding that a few models are considered antiques because the frames were all manufactured before 1898, but many of these examples were shipped post-1898. So the question is why is there not a cutoff serial number for these examples that were shipped into the 1900s?

Examples are New Model 3 single action revolvers, S&W Model 1891s, and S&W 32 1st Model hand ejectors.
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Old 05-13-2013, 12:16 PM
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Gary, I'm going to have to put myself in the shoes of the parties at BATF as to what to do next when the law was passed that created the Antique category. They had limited resources to enforce gun laws and now they had to draw a line in the sand and play "Before & After." They went to the gun companies and said "help us out on this" and mutually agreed that certain models that had been years in production, and now out of production, would be grandfathered as antiques, although some remaining guns would still be shipped. Guns that were still being made, like Safety Hammerless models, would have to have a cut off serial number established, and that was done by using ship dates in the case of S&Ws. The laws did not say "ship dates" was the criteria to select cutoff data, but said "manufacturing" dates. In S&Ws case, only the ship dates were available from the company, so the BATF went with that for S&Ws, but allowed S&W to identify certain models that had been made before 1898, but were still in inventory and the tooling was no longer usable to make more, to include those models as "Antiques" for the BATF. Shipment of those models after 1898 did not alter their antique status. It was only pressure on Congress by the gun community in the case of the 1934 Firearms Act, the 1968 Gun Control Act, the 2nd Amendment and other gun legislation over the years that required the gun laws to allow things like the antiques and Curios & Relics classes of guns, or we wouldn't be collecting guns today. Hope that helps. Ed.

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Old 05-13-2013, 12:42 PM
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Perfect - Thanks Ed.
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Old 05-13-2013, 08:28 PM
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"Yes, 12345 was made before 12346." Not necessarily. It might be more correct to say that the frames so-numbered were likely made at about the same time, in the same batch. But regarding the finished product, 12346 could well have been assembled and shipped before 12345, with the latter frame staying in a parts bin for some time.

As has been mentioned here previously, when a gun was actually "made" can have multiple interpretations, as a gun contains many parts, each one being manufactured at different times.

Last edited by DWalt; 05-13-2013 at 08:48 PM.
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Old 05-14-2013, 09:43 AM
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I think what you are alluding to is the "assembly" date and, yes,that could come later on one than the other. But the manufacture date (if available) seems to be accepted as that when the frame was completed and numbered.
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Old 05-15-2013, 12:48 AM
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Dean, I don't know either what DWalt means. My explanation was based on "Serial number 12345 was made before 12346" The production logs are clear on that point
as the "made" dates are sequential with the serial numbers and record the serial number and the date the gun was made and sent to the vault, and the worker was paid for making the gun. . Assembly numbers have nothing to do with the manufacturing logs, as they are only for getting fitted parts back together after bluing or plating. If we really want to split hairs here, guns were made by the batch system, in that a Foreman received an order to make, say 100 .32 HEs. He would assign the work to probably 1/2 doz. different lead men on his team, who would supervise the individual workers assembling the guns. When all 100 guns are done, they are entered in the production log sequentially by serial number and the Foreman gets paid by S&W and he pays his crew. It could be that one leadman's group works faster than another group and their guns are done first and happen to have a higher serial number within the 100 guns list of sequential guns ordered, but the Foreman lists them sequentially by serial number, on his production log and that's how the go to the vault. Ed.
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